In a recent survey conducted by PR Week, communication professionals were asked who they thought was the most influential person in PR in the world. The answer? Donald Trump.
Beth Balsam, once CEO for H+K Strategies, told PR Week that the profession is indebted to the president. "He validated our profession by using earned media to his advantage while spending very little on campaign advertising," she said.
Although many would argue he's seen his fair share of media mishaps, Donald Trump is also a PR genius. Here's why.
1) Harnessing the power of earned media
If communication is about getting messages across without using paid advertising, Donald Trump is the master of it. Data analytics firm MediaQuant estimates that Donald Trump earned almost $5 billion in "free" media during the presidential campaign.
If communication is about getting messages across without using paid advertising, Donald Trump is the master of it.
He did this by saying highly controversial things on a frequent basis. He agreed to do as many interviews as possible during the campaign, and used Twitter to get his inflammatory rhetoric out to even more people. These generated their own headlines – it's rare that one person can garner so many news headlines that are solely based on something they've tweeted, but Donald Trump manages it on a weekly basis.
2) He knows how to turn bad press around
Whenever Donald Trump receives bad press, he uses it as an opportunity to paint himself as the victim. He says that the media is against him, that it is petty and won't allow him to carry out his policies, despite the fact that he won the election. This is a stroke of genius – now, whenever the press report something, he just has to sing this tune again, and his supporters will never believe a word of what's being said against him.
A lot of the fake news generated during the election painted Donald Trump in a good light (for example, the false story that a man was paid to attend an anti-Trump rally), and the President manipulated the phenomenon even further. He frequently calls the media "fake and fraudulent" and even tried to get #FraudNewsCNN trending.
Donald Trump has managed to get huge numbers of people to question everything that the press say about him – this is spin on another level.
The FAKE & FRAUDULENT NEWS MEDIA is working hard to convince Republicans and others I should not use social media – but remember, I won….
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2017
3) Using language everyone understands
The U.S. had some of the most preened and polished political campaigning in the world – until Donald Trump came along. He doesn't use political speak – and the language he uses is fairly simple. But this allowed him to stand out from the get-go, and capture people's attention when before they felt disaffected by Washington.
This is a technique not dissimilar to that used by Jeremy Corbyn in the UK general election. Mr Corbyn saw huge gains in popularity partly as a result of his frank, genuine nature, which felt refreshing compared to Theresa May's "strong and stable government" sound bites.
The media and establishment want me out of the race so badly – I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE, WILL NEVER LET MY SUPPORTERS DOWN! #MAGA
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2016
Coupling this with his attacks on the press, Mr Trump managed to position himself as anti-establishment, something that always resonates well with the public in a time when there's huge mistrust of governments and corporations. This was despite the fact that he himself in most definitions of the word is part of the establishment – a businessman and billionaire, who started his company with a loan from his father.
You may not like Donald Trump, but there's a lot we can learn from his PR tactics. For more communication trends, visit our Insights page.